An art and antiquities dealer has been arrested for his alleged involvement in an elaborate African elephant ivory smuggling scheme.
Federal prosecutors contend that Victor Gordon is responsible for the illegal import of nearly a ton of ivory from 2006 to 2009.
Gordon allegedly financed the purchase of raw ivory in Africa, which was then carved and stained to appear old. Ivory collected before 1989 can be legally traded under international treaty and American law.
Elephants have been poached for their tusks for thousands of years. In the last 40 years, however, poaching has led to a serious decline in elephant populations; the 1970′s and 1980′s alone saw a 60% population decline across Africa.
Salvatore Amato, Special Agent-in-Charge of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Northeast Region Office of Law Enforcement said in a statement (PDF) that, “illegal ivory trafficking jeopardizes the survival of an imperiled species and undermines our commitment to tracking down profiteers who deal in black market ivory in the United States.”
Gordon pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of smuggling charges and violation of the Endangered Species Act. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.